By: WAYNE ANTON
I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for 2017! Sure, you could argue that it’s just another day. Just another Saturday fading into Sunday. But I choose to see it a different way and millions of people around the world agree. The new year means a few things. It inspires hope for new, exciting and prosperous ventures but also presents new difficulties and fears of the unknown. The way most people see it, it gives them a chance at a fresh start, and who doesn’t like that idea.
We always say, “Hindsight is 20/20,” and, “If I only knew then what I know now.” Well now is now and no time will ever be now again, so go get it. Do you get it now? I think some people don’t like the concept of the new year because they dislike the people that abuse it. You see the same people, year after year, declare, “This is the year of the new and improved me.” “The year I get skinnier.” “The year I stop smoking cigarettes.” “The year I stop living in my parent’s basement.” But don’t blame the person, blame society and the culture and era we live in. Or don’t blame anybody but yourself for your decisions. Hey, now there’s a novel idea. Maybe, just maybe you, and only you, can improve your life and you don’t NEED any arbitrary day to do it, but hey, if it helps then I'm all for it.
I am wholeheartedly in favor of the completely fictitious yet symbolical passing of an old day into a "New Year". How or when a person decides they want to grow and evolve their physical, mental, or emotional well-being is not up for my judgement. So, I always advocate for a person to choose a great new year’s resolution but please stick to it. Don’t be a repeat offender. Set a goal, crush it, and set a new one. It’s one of those easier said than done deals. I get it, but sometimes there’s nothing to it but to do it. I think a smart, sexy, famous person once said that… or not. Either way, if you are going to use 2017 as an excuse to get better, live longer, and be happier then follow some sage advice. Or don’t, and re-read this again next year.
- Eat healthy... most of the time. What I mean by that is treat your body like the work of art and piece of machinery that you are. Your body needs water. So, drink it. Lots of it. Going to the bathroom a lot just means more breaks from work and I never heard anybody complain about that. The Institute of Medicine recommends a total daily water intake of 3.7 liters (15 cups) for the average adult man and 2.7 liters (11 cups) for the average adult woman (1). Though, don’t forget that water is also found in abundance in the other liquids and foods we take in throughout the day. Eat more whole foods, vegetables, and lean meats than you do cupcakes, cookies, and donuts. It’s not rocket science. But, I did say most of the time, not all the time. I get it; a steamed kale and flax seed smoothie isn’t quite as delicious as that Dairy Queen Oreo Blizzard but one literally clogs your arteries and the other is kale. Get it? Moderation is key. I won’t go into too much detail but in case you were unsure sugar affects your brain in a very similar way to how heroin does. Yes, that heroin. Junk foods and sugar flood the reward system with dopamine, particularly a brain area called the Nucleus accumbens, which is strongly implicated in addiction (2). It’s a little white rock what did you expect? So just know that the hangry feeling you get when you've gone more than three hours without a Milky Way it’s not you, it’s your addiction and you are the victim. Or are you? I'm not saying it'll be easy but take it from someone who thought candy was at the base of food pyramid for the first 15 years of his life: you will feel unbelievably better without it, I promise. But what about fruits? Don’t they have sugars? Sure, so do most vegetables but are you really going to sit here and argue about which is healthier; a pineapple or a fruit snack gummy bear shaped like a pineapple? Great now that we've taken care of that let’s move on.
- Exercise... the end. No but seriously, move. Just move. More than you sit. I don’t know the exact ratio of moving to sitting you need to be healthy but let’s just assume it’s not too difficult to achieve. If you're not a gym person, then you need to find other ways to challenge yourself. Go for a hike, rock climb, run, bike, take a Zumba class, try yoga or Pilates, play sports, garden, take up lumberjacking, etc. etc. Although ideally, I prefer to lift weights and perform one or several of those activities on any given day I also know our busy schedules don’t allow for such tomfoolery when there’s work to be done. Which is even more of a reason to make time for it. You spend 8 hours a day working to achieve someone else’s goals and eight hours a day sleeping and dreaming of your own but you can’t spend 30-60 minutes a few days a week on bettering yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally? It is recommended the average adult get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of both. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during a week. As well as strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Aim to do at least one set of several different exercises, using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions (3). We have unimaginably strong and resilient shells when we take care of them, otherwise they become weak and frail if we don’t. Exercise is that difference maker. So, I don’t care how you get it done just do it. Hmm, Nike may have something there.
- Sleep. As much as you can. Unless you’re a teenager in which case wake up and go be active or read something. I say as much as you can because even if you could it still probably wouldn’t be enough. In all seriousness sleep is one of, if not, the most important things your body needs to stay healthy. You can survive three weeks without food. You'll lose a bunch of weight, mostly muscle mass which isn’t great, but that’s not the point. Try three weeks without sleep and tell me how you feel. I need a solid six hours to function, seven to act civil and eight to perform a task efficiently. Any more than that and I feel I'm wasting precious minutes I could be using to better myself, physically, mentally, and emotionally. There’s a theme here in case you hadn’t noticed yet. So, although factors such as age play a role, it is recommended a healthy adult get anywhere between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Individuals who habitually sleep outside the normal range may exhibit signs or symptoms of serious health problems or, if done voluntarily, may be compromising their health and well-being (4).
- Find a companion; of the animal kind. I don’t believe in using the phrase "owning an animal" because I have dogs and they aren’t my slaves that I keep locked up outside. They are a part of my family and they give more love in one day than most humans give their entire lives. The complete and total unconditional love an animal gives to you is unlike any feeling you will ever get from anything or anybody else in this world. I also don’t get how people can say they don’t like animals. What’s not to like? I’d rather a dog lick my face than a person talk behind my back. Going back to grade school if we counted the number of animals that did me wrong compared to the number of humans, let’s just say animals win by a landslide victory. If you’re unsure about the whole idea of caring for another living being, then start with something small, like a goldfish. Something so small and seemingly insignificant but relies on you to feed him and clean his water bowl to survive could end up eventually winning over your heart. Then when you've graduated to cats and dogs and other companion animals, you will truly understand the love I speak of. And why does any of this matter? Because after a long day of waking up early, but also late because your alarm clock didn’t go off, cutting yourself while rushing to shave, getting a flat tire on the way to work, having a bad day at work, then almost getting into an accident after work you just want to come home, relax, and unwind (maybe cry a little, I get it). But I promise you, there’s no better greeting than when your little buddy who hasn’t seen you in eight hours (which is about eight years in dog perception) sees you walk through that door. I dare you not to smile and reach for their embrace to soften the hardships of the day. Evidence reviewed by the American Heart Association indicates that dog owners are more likely to exercise, have a better cholesterol profile, have lower blood pressure, be less vulnerable to the physical effects of stress, and be more likely to survive a heart attack (5). So, you want to live a longer, happier, healthier life; find an animal companion.
Now at this point last year I’ll be the first to admit that 2015 wasn’t my best year. Physically, I became too lazy to prepare my meals so I started eating an unhealthy amount of unhealthy foods. The outcome; I felt like crap (big surprise). I hadn’t missed that much time away from the gym since before I started going to a gym 16 years earlier, but I had reasons (excuses): I moved out of my childhood house, I started a new job, and I started a business so I was too busy to take care of myself. That cannot happen. Your health is paramount above all else because you can’t give out more than you make and if you don’t make enough for yourself then you'll have nothing to offer anybody else. But there was always next year.
Mentally, I was barely hanging in there towards the end. 2015 proved to show some puzzling times that took my mind some time to put together. Friends and family gone too soon. Goals gone unaccomplished. Knowledge went unlearned. Places went untraveled. I was not happy, but there was always next year.
Emotionally, I’d say I was somewhere between Al Gore and Kim Kardashian but my spirits were unwavering because that’s something you buildup over the years. It’s what gets you through the tough times beyond all the physical and mental stress and anxiety. Both the positive and negative experiences that help mold and sharpen that strong resilient core. So, I dusted myself off and like millions of people around the world I said, "There’s always next year!"
So, that’s what I did and that story is for another day but I didn’t exactly develop any new information here, brew the elixir of life, or stumble upon the fountain of youth. What I have done is built a strong body, a sound mind, a stable sentiment, and a vivacious spirit, which helps me overcome any obstacles placed before me. So, if that obstacle is poor health change your diet, exercise regimen, or sleep patterns. Or just one. Or all of them. It’s trial and error. Just don’t stop trying. If that obstacle is a difficult task at work, think critically, and, if necessary, swallow your pride and ask for advice to solve the problem. If that obstacle is an emotional roller coaster that makes The Superman seem like a kiddie ride, throw your hands in the air and scream it out until it’s over (hypothetically speaking of course). And if that obstacle attempts to damage or deconstruct your spirit, try to remember how truly lucky you are to be alive right now. How many friends and family members love you. How (relatively) young and sprite you are. How you must always thirst for knowledge of self as well as the universe. 2017 is coming whether you like it or not so buckle up, hold tight, and don’t get bucked off the wild bronco that is life.